Apart from how much I’ve agonized over what to put in the story, I think I’ve experienced the most stress over how best to TELL the story. Or, to be more precise, WHO should be telling it.
I’ll spare us the refresher course in creative writing and suffice it to say that “perspective” is the vantage point from which a story is told. It is relevant, however, to review the options:
First Person – The narrator uses ‘I’, and the story is told from their unique (and often biased) perspective.
Second Person – The narrator uses ‘you’, and addresses the reader.
Third Person Limited – The narrator uses ‘they’, and the story is told from the perspective of a focal character.
Third Person Multiple – The narrator uses ‘they’, and can focus on multiple characters.
Third Person Omniscient – The narrator uses ‘they’, and the story can be told from any and all angles, switching perspective as needed, with knowledge of the entire world within the story.
Deciding which of these was my best course of action has been hell. On the one hand, a writer considers her strengths. I have been told and several occasions that I write most lyrically from a first person perspective, but the margin for prejudicial narrative always bothered me, and with such a large cast of characters, no one character was equipped to tell the entire story. The amount of switching between perspectives would have given the reader a headache.
My main cast has seven characters, all of whom have a unique experience of the events in the story. Each of them has a bias has tells parts of the story the way they need to be told. Third person omniscience was an option, of course, but it felt cold. Like a coroner’s report. And, as discussed before, I didn’t have it in me to let seven different people take turns talking about how they see the world. I could have done it, but I would have hated myself for it.
What I needed, was a way to give the microphone to seven different voices, along with their essential doses of bias, without letting everyone spend a chapter at a time talking about themselves.
In the end, I opted for a mix between the two: third person limitation, with a switch between character narratives as the chapters progressed. And to be honest, it was when I saw George R. R. Martin do it that I knew I wasn’t a crazy person for thinking it could pan out, even with so many voices to whom I must do justice.
How do you decide upon the perspective used in a given story? Do you default more often to a strength, or does it vary by content? Can you describe a time this process was difficult?
The September topic has launched, guest hosted by our very own Shane Bell. September’s contest is a one prompt month with a suggested limit of 5,000 words. How would you deal with Waking Up in Outer Space?
If you’re interested in guest hosting, or if you just have an idea you’d like to bat around, the Mod Hydra wants to hear from you! You can comment here, or reach out to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.